Ritsa winced sympathetically as she heard Sarah hiss in pain as she changed from behind a changing screen, reaching over for a jar of muscle relaxants and adding it to the swirling waters of the bathtub. Two weeks had passed since Sarah's first transformation success, and it had been added to her regular magical training, but the constant forming of her wings and learning how to use them were causing her shoulders and back to grow tense and sore. And this was just the start, she hadn't even tried using her wings for flying yet, just basic movements. Sarah had also confided in her one day during which Ritsa had brought her lunch, that Jareth wanted to start her with weapons training, though they weren't sure as to the particular weapon that she would be using just yet.
She shook her head. There was so much pressure on Sarah, so much that was expected of her. When she had first been assigned as Sarah's personal maid, she had worried that the weight of her responsibilities might end up crushing her under their heel in the end. But as she came to know Sarah better, she changed her mind. Yes, her burden's may be great and many, but she had a determined spirit that wouldn't be destroyed easily.
She smiled as Sarah finally came out from behind the screen with a towel wrapped around her, her face half contorted into a grimace, but she managed a weak smile at Ritsa.
"Thank you, Ritsa. I've been dreaming about this bath all day."
"You're welcome. I'll leave you to it then, and if you need anything, I do believe Elva is standing guard outside your bedroom door."
Sarah chuckled fondly, thinking of the little female goblin who had barely left her side since they had met, and had since taken a personal oath to protect her no matter where she went. Which Jareth, naturally, found to be quite amusing.
"First Didymus, the beast and Higgle" he started, counting three fingers out on his black leather gloved hands.
"Hoggle" she corrected him automatically, but he continued on as if he hadn't heard, though a small quirk of his lips told her otherwise.
"And now Ritsa, Gwen and Elva. Tell me, Sarah, how many other subjects of mine do you intend to ensnare with your charms, or will you graciously leave me with a few?"
She had laughed at his teasing. "You forgot your mom"
"Ah yes, how could I forget that even my own mother is not immune, and seems quite taken with you."
Sarah shrugged and smiled brightly up at him, enjoying the teasing banter, but it didn't last.
"Come along now, dear, time to get back to your training." Callisto had called to her.
Sarah came back to her senses and nodded. "Thanks again, Ritsa. I really do appreciate it."
Ritsa smiled and nodded, then left Sarah to her own devices.
She unwrapped the towel from around her body and set it on a small stool off to the side of the tub, and carefully crawled into the hot soapy waters, moaning and hissing as the heated water crawled up her body and turned where it touched pink. Finally she sighed as she lay back and let the hot water work its magic on her sore and tense body, enjoying the tranquility.
She had sudden urge to chuckle as she thought of her situation. Here she was, in the middle of the Goblin Kingdom, the one place that had completely unnerved her the first time she had been here, with the Goblin King, the one person that had both frightened and enthralled her all at once, doing the absolute last thing she thought that she would ever do if she ever came back: sitting and relaxing in a bathtub, totally at ease like nothing at all was wrong with this picture.
She did chuckle then. Oh, how things had changed for her. This place seemed to have that effect on her, it would seem.
'Or maybe this place just really forces you to grow up, to stand back, take off the rose-tinted glasses and look at the big picture, not just the parts that you want to see. And thinking on it, it's not just this place that has that effect, either, but certain people, too. Hoggle, Ludo, Sir Didymus, and Jareth. Each had a lesson to teach you.'
As soon as she thought of Jareth, she couldn't help but suspiciously glance at the seemingly innocent looking bubbles that floated in heaps around her. At one time, she wouldn't have put it past him to try to sneak a miniature version of his crystals into her bathtub, hoping that it would go unnoticed. But since she had returned, he had been nothing but a gentleman, and that had gone a long way with her.
That had been when she really looked at Jareth for the first time, really looked at him. There had been so many misunderstandings between them, for a while it felt like she was constantly stepping on glass around him, and the nervous energy surrounding them was nearly suffocating. But after they had gotten everything out in the open and she gained some insight into the method to his madness, the tension dissipated and eventually disappeared. She felt herself warm up to him as they ventured into the realm of friendship, growing more comfortable with him and this land as the days past.
It felt like home.
She had no more than thought the words when the tender smile she had was replaced with a deep frown, and almost immediately she could feel the tears pricking from behind her eyelids.
Home. Toby. Her father. Irene. Her friends. The Aboveground.
Though she felt a sense of comfort here that the Aboveground had never provided her with, even before her first journey through the Labyrinth, the Underground could not replace the ties that she had Aboveground.
Sarah suddenly felt like she was being ripped in half, as if she was in actual physical pain, and she brought shaky hands to her chest.
The Aboveground was where she was raised, where she had spent her life, where she had started to make a place to call her own. She had family there and dreams and goals that she had hoped to one day see accomplished.
But the Underground, that was where she had the most growth, and the most profound and deep ties to friends. This place was so full of wonder and magic that she couldn't help but be drawn to it, it was as if her entire being craved the Underground world and all its beings. It was also the place where she had never felt more alive, not only from the adventures that she seemed destined to have, but because of Jareth. He made her feel alive like no one else had, or likely ever would. Even just thinking about him made her nerve endings tingle with anticipation, and the thought of leaving him and his world made her heart break.
Both worlds were so important to her, both were like her home, each having their own significant role in her life, but she could not be in both places at once. What would she choose once her duty as the battle maiden had been fulfilled?
Aboveground? Or Underground?
Anxiety wound its way up through her chest, squeezing her heart and lungs as her mind filled with faces of people whom she dearly cared for, painted out in scowls or teary eyes as she broke the news to them that she wasn't staying in their world. And no matter which place she chose, she would be breaking others hearts, as well as her own.
Her eyes, blurry with tears, settled upon a bubble that rested on her leg, turning it an almost peachy color. And that was when a memory struck her, making her wonder if she had a choice at all when it came to where she would spend the rest of her life.
"What do you mean she has no choice, Jareth?" Titania had asked her son, gazing at him through slightly narrowed eyes.
"I mean that she is bound to the Labyrinth, and myself. She is a subject of the Labyrinth, and while I thank you for seeing to her needs as of late, I am exercising my right to bring her back to my castle with me."
"I suppose this has something to do with that secondary spell on the fruit when Sarah first ventured into the Labyrinth, correct?" Titania asked as she stared down her son.
He nodded. "It does."
"A spell of bonding, if I am not mistaken. It is a spell that binds two people together in heart, body and soul. Once this spell is cast, the two can never be separated for very long at a time." she explained, narrowing her eyes at her son.
"There is nothing that can be done. The spell is cast and the deed is done, you are a citizen of the Goblin Kingdom, whether you like it or not." Jareth said sternly.
Jareth's spell of bonding meant that she was bound to not only the Labyrinth, but to Jareth, and even if he let her to return Aboveground, would the spell he cast allow it? According to what Titania had said, she really rather doubted it.
So, she was effectively stuck, unless of course the spell could be removed.
But a part of her wondered if she really wanted it removed.
'Seems like even if the spell hadn't bonded you to Jareth, that you have already made up your mind on where you would stay.'
A sigh escaped her lips. Though she had been born Aboveground and had her family there, in her heart she knew that she could not survive there. Her heart would be full of agony and she would slowly wither away, her inner flame would die slowly until it was finally extinguished, and her heart would continue to crack and shatter painfully every single day for the rest of her life, how ever long that may be, until she was finally put out of her misery. And depending how well her sanity held out, perhaps she would end up taking her own life.
'Whoa, whoa, whoa! Negative and morbid much? Maybe you need to get out of the tub before you get any crazy idea's...'
She glared at the bubbles as if they had committed a personal offense, and promptly crossed her arms over her chest.
It wasn't as if she was seriously considering something drastic like that, she was just venting, but apparently the part of her mind that seemed to have a consciousness of its own -which when she thought about it was more than a bit disturbing- obviously seemed rather worried for her sanity.
But she had been quite dramatic in her thoughts, and she realized now that she had started to drown in her depression and anxiety. Perhaps that voice of hers spoke up to break her free from the negativity and bring her back to reality.
Alright, so given the choice between world's, she had picked the Underground. That didn't necessarily mean that she would never seen the Aboveground and her family again, right? If Jareth could go Aboveground, then why couldn't she? And if she couldn't, then she was sure that Jareth would take her to let her visit.
'Why hadn't I thought of visiting before? Really! Sometimes I swear that I automatically look for the negative things instead of the positive.'
She shook her head and grabbed the soap, determined to enjoy the rest of her bath.
She wouldn't be loosing a world or family or friends, but gaining them instead. Sure, she might not be able to live full time in the Aboveground as she once had, but she wouldn't loose the bonds that she had there.
A small part of her brain wondered just how she could choose so quickly, to a place that she had barely lived in, and people that she was just getting to know.
But that small part of her mind spoke up gently, 'Because you didn't choose with your brain. You chose with your heart, and the heart wants what the heart wants, there is no place for logic within the heart.'
Her mind relented finally and for a glorious hour and a half, Sarah soaked in the bathwater and washed slowly with care, and sooner than she cared for the temperature of the water was too cool and she finally drained the tub and got out. She inhaled deeply of the scents of her soap and shampoo as she wrapped her towel back around her body, grabbed another one to dry out her hair and headed out to her bedroom, wondering briefly if she could persuade the cooks to make her some of the honey cakes that she had become so fond of for a bedtime snack.
She had barely sat down at the chair in front of her vanity mirror when a series of knocks disrupted her thoughts, so with a small adjustment to her towel she allowed the person entrance.
"Lady, Elva knows that it's late, but yous has visitors. Shall Elva tells them to wait 'till morning?"
"No, that's alright. Thank you, Elva." Sarah smiled at the goblin warmly, watched as she puffed out her chest with pride at a task well done, and then allowed her visitors entrance to the room.
"Sister, we are so happy to see you!" Aarya cried as she flew into the room, followed by Selene and Damara.
"Oh, what a pleasant surprise this is!" Sarah beamed at the fairies as they landed on the vanity chest. "What brings you all here?"
They all held out an armful of clothes to her.
"Majesty Callisto has had these clothes fashioned for you, and she let us bring them to you" Aarya's smile broadened.
"More like you begged that we could bring them" Damara giggled behind a hand when Aarya shot her an irritated look.
"Also, Her Majesty has given us a task. She wishes us to help you with learning to use your wings" Selene spoke up, laying down the clothes carefully and rustling her own set of dark colored wings.
"Wow, that's wonderful! Callisto has been teaching me basic movements and such, but we have been concentrating more on my magical control and doing small things, like creating objects and then un-creating them, and re-sizing myself back and fourth."
"I cannot wait to see your wings, Sarah! I bet they are beautiful!" Aarya gushed. "But it is getting late, and you should get some rest."
"I was just on my way to get a bedtime snack before bed, which now that I think about it, I don't even need to bother the cooks now. Aarya, you can teach me how to make honey cakes."
"Of course! We'll make the best batch of honey cakes ever!" Aarya fluttered excitedly back and fourth, making Sarah giggle as she got up from her seat.
"Excellent, just let me get dressed first and then we'll get going."
A couple minutes later Sarah re-emerged wearing a loose fitting short sleeved light grey nightgown that looked like it had been a t-shirt at some point, cutting off a bit above the knee, and her hair done up in a quick and slightly messy bun.
She was slipping on a pair of slippers when Damara piped up.
Sarah quirked an eyebrow. "What' what?"
"That. What you're wearing."
"Oh," she looked down at herself and then back at Damara. "My nightgown?"
"It does not look like any nightgown I have ever seen" Selene said, looking Sarah up and down.
"I'll bet. This is what a lot of girls in the Aboveground usually wear to bed, some girls wear fancier kinds of clothes to bed, and some girls don't wear anything at all" Sarah shrugged, but the fairies looked shocked.
"Nothing at all?!" Aarya cried, her eyes wide.
"How could that possibly be comfortable?" Selene asked.
"Or warm" Damara added.
Sarah just shrugged again. "Different people like different things. Actually, it's kind of nice to wear some of the more revealing night clothes, kind of fun, you know?"
The three fairies all looked at each other, and then back at Sarah and shook their heads at her.
"Really? That's a shame. When I was growing up I always loved to dress up in fancy clothes and pretty shoes, it made me feel more womanly and confident."
She made her way over to the door as she talked, opening it for her friends and letting them fly out first before shutting it behind her.
"Where is Lady going?" Elva questioned.
"Just to the kitchen to get a snack, Elva."
"Okay, but Lady should come back soon for bed. Lady needs her sleep"
"I promise I will try not to be too long, Elva. We're just going to make a snack and then come right back. You really don't need to stay there, you should get some rest, too."
"Elva will go to sleep after Lady goes to sleep."
Sarah smiled at her. "Very well, Elva. We'll try not to be too long."
Finally getting used to the layout of the castle, Sarah was able to get around without the near constant help from goblins or the Labyrinth, which was almost as great a feat as navigating through the Labyrinth!
When they finally reached the kitchens, they were silent and slightly dark, but warm. The fire they kept going to keep the rooms of the castle warm was starting to dwindle, but nothing that Sarah couldn't handle. She found a couple medium sized candles and lit them, then turned to Selene and Damara.
"Do you guys mind lighting the sconces for me?"
"Not at all." Damara said for the both of them, both taking a candle and gently set off to accomplish their task.
"What should I do, sister?" Aarya asked, reminding Sarah of Toby, always wanting to help.
"Could you please start getting the things we'll need to bake the cakes? You're the expert, after all."
Aarya beamed at her and then flew off.
Sarah smiled to herself as she hefted a couple pieces of wood into the fire and watched it grow brighter, and she briefly thought about how depressed she had been earlier, but now her mood grew bright much like the fire did.
She looked back as Damara and Selene were lighting the last of the sconces, and Aarya was carrying a few different ingredients to the counter, and mentally thanked the Gods above for blessing her with such wonderful and caring friends. Her life had become a whole lot more complicated in the last little while, but if not for her friends, new and old, she didn't think that she would have made it so far.
'Alright, enough with the sappy crap, I'm in the mood for food!'
It took them forty five minutes to whip up the batter for the honey cakes, which normally only took twenty minutes to a half an hour, but a small scale food fight had broken out when Damara accidentally splattered Aarya with batter from her overly vigorous mixing. Selene had tried her best to stay out of it, but in the end the other two had teamed up, which resulted in Selene getting a spoonful of flour dumped on her head in mid-air. Even Sarah was not immune to getting a dusting of flour or a splatter of batter, to which she retaliated by dipping her fingers in a bowl of nearby water and flicking them with it.
After they had finally got the cakes in the oven they started their clean up, which naturally took them longer than it should have, and by the time they were finished cleaning the cakes were done.
Sarah retrieved a basket from a bottom cupboard and placed the cakes inside, with a couple of plates, and covered it with a blanket. Then she walked over towards the wall and placed her hand gently upon the stones.
"And good evening to you, Sarah. What can I do for you?" The Labyrinth spoke gently and lovingly to her, like a mother speaking to her child.
"I was wondering if you could tell me if Jareth was still awake or not."
The Labyrinth was silent for a couple moments, and then spoke again.
"His Majesty is indeed awake, in his study."
"Is he busy at all? I wanted to take him some of these honey cakes, but I do not wish to disturb him"
Sarah could almost feel the Labyrinth smile. "He seems to be doing some sort of paper work, but I am sure that he would not mind a visit, especially from you"
Sarah smiled shyly, thanked the Labyrinth for its help, and then the four of them left the kitchen. Half way back to her room, Sarah spoke.
"Would you guys mind going back to my room without me, and let Elva know I'll be there in a moment? I wanted to stop by Jareth's study for a minute."
Aarya and Damara both gave her a knowing grin, while Selene's eyes merely twinkled, but they said nothing as they gave a nod of their head and flew off towards her room.
A couple of corridors later, Sarah found Jareth's study, and after grabbing out a few honey cakes and setting them on a plate, she timidly knocked on the door. She practically held her breath as she waited for Jareth to answer the door, and for a minute she thought he was going to ignore it altogether, but then the door slowly opened.
A smirk worked its way across his lips when he recognized Sarah's small frame in the dim lights of the hallways.
"Well, well, what have we here? A pleasant surprise, I must say" he said, his lithe body resting against the frame of the door.
"Me and my friends made a late night snack, and I thought you might like some." she smiled up at him as she offered the plate.
He took the plate, but his eyes never left hers. "Which friends? I cannot imagine the beast nor Hotchpotch knowing how to do anything but make a mess in the kitchen."
"Hoggle" she corrected with a smirk, "and I'm referring to the friends I made in Avalon, fairies, they came to deliver the clothes Callisto had made up for me. And besides learning how to make these honey cakes for myself, they are also going to help me learn how to fly."
"Ah, speaking of which, I have had a special room made up for when you were to learn that. The floor is padded so that you will not hurt yourself, should you fall. I will show it to you after breakfast tomorrow."
"How thoughtful. Thank you, Jareth."
Jareth leaned over her, using his free hand to take a stray lock of her hair that escaped from her bun, and smiled down at her.
"You're welcome, precious"
He had no more than whispered the few words, but he was so close that she could feel the vibrations of his voice all through her body, and she shivered delightfully.
"By the way," he continued, releasing her hair and cupping her cheek. Sarah's breath hitched in her throat as she stared intently into his eyes, her body leaning slightly into his touch without her even realizing it. "what is this on your cheek?"
Sarah's eyes, which had started to close, suddenly snapped open at his question. She lifted her hand to her cheek, not even noticing when her fingers slid over his, but zeroing in instead on a dry crusty patch of batter that she had missed on the lower half of her cheek when she was cleaning herself off.
"That," she sighed, "would be a bit of cake batter that I apparently over looked when I was washing the rest of the batter and flour off."
Jareth grinned and quirked an eyebrow. "Was there an even that perhaps I should have been invited to?"
She giggled, wiping off the batter as best as she could with the back of her hand. "No. The fairies got a little excited during our baking and started a small food fight, that's all."
A throaty chuckle escaped Jareth's lips. "I guess I have misjudged them, they are more like the goblins then I had originally thought."
Sarah couldn't help but giggle again, wondering just how offended the fairies might be if they knew that Jareth had compared them to his goblins, but it was cut short when she was reminded of where Jareth's hand still was cupping when he started to stroke her cheek.
Slowly she lifted her gaze to meet his, his stormy gaze boring deep into hers as he gently let his fingers wander across her cheek and down her neck. She shivered again and knew that he felt it when his eyes sparkled and his grin became like a predators. He slowly inclined his head towards her, stopping just before his lips would meet hers, as if checking to make sure he wasn't crossing a line with her. But when he received no hesitation from her, he closed the distance and softly pressed his lips against hers.
It was amazing. For the brief moment that he kissed her, it was like he had no worries or cares in the world, everything was perfect, and when he felt her lean slightly into the kiss, his heart soared to unbelievable heights. He wanted so badly to deepen the kiss, show her the affection and love that he held for her, had always held for her, but that would be too much for her.
Though it nearly caused him physical pain to do so, he ended the kiss and whispered into her ear, which to his delight caused her to shiver again. Apparently his voice had some affect on her.
"Thank you for the cakes, and the break. I am sure I will enjoy one just as much as the other."
Sarah could only numbly nod her head, her eyes glazed over and her heart pounding in her ears.
"Good night, precious" he whispered to her before leaning back to admire his handy work.
"...Good..night, Jareth." she said softly, giving him one last smile before turning and leaving in the direction of her room.
Jareth watched her round the corner and out of sight before he backed into the room and shut the door. He would have escorted her back to her bedroom, but he couldn't quite trust himself after that kiss. His lips still tingled, and he had no doubt that hers did as well.
He grinned. She was beginning to see him as Jareth, the king of the goblins, and not Jareth, the enemy of babies everywhere. And if that kiss was any indication, she was seeing him as more than a mere friend, too.
He took a cake off of the plate and bit into it.
"Mmmmmmmmm, sweet, just like my Sarah."
AN: alright, so not much action, I know, but progress nonetheless! Hope it was still a good chapter :)